Three American High Jumpers
2011 and 2012 was a great period for American High Jumping with Jesse Williams winning the World Championship in 2011 in Daegu, Korea and USA getting two silvers at the London 2012 Olympics. The two silvers were not entirely straightforward. In the men’s competition, Erik Kynard jumped 2.33 to finish second behind Ivan Ukhov (Russia) who was subsequently disqualified for a doping offence.
However, the official Olympic website lists the London 2012 result as Kynard second with first place blank along with a comment: “Please note that because a number of anti-doping rules violations procedures are still in progress – including procedures involving medalists further to the results of the retesting programmes carried out on the samples collected in Beijing 2008 and London 2012- the information contained in the list is not final”.
In the women’s competition Brigetta Barrett was second with 2:03 behind Anna Chicherova (Russia) who cleared 2:05. However, when Chicherova’s 2008 drug re-test returned positive her 2008 Olympic bronze was rescinded, but 2012 gold was not affected.
I asked the three athletes to describe their competition.
Jesse Williams 2011 World Championship gold medal
“I was expecting to win. I felt I was definitely one of the favourites. I had been jumping very consistently all through the year and I had the world’s highest jump coming into the competition. Maybe I would not have been the favourite to win but I would have been a medal favourite.
This is an interesting piece on the HJ success by Americans in 2011 and 2012, a golden age in the American high jump….
“Qualifying was very difficult. It took 2:31 which is the highest the qualification standard ever. And the hardest final to ever make. There were so many good high jumpers that it was expected to be hard to make that final. I had struggled in the past making finals. I had never made an Olympic or World Championship final so I knew that if I could get through the qualifying, I would be in good shape to make an impact in the final.
“I have a good resumÃ© of making bars on the first attempt. I have won many championships that way. My last competition leading up to Daegu was in London and jumped 2:34 and every height prior to that on the first attempt. I knew that if I could replicate what I had done in London I would set myself up for a medal and hopefully a win in Daegu. And that is what I did.
“I like fighting and I have always had that sense of being the underdog and proving people wrong. It is easier when you are not on top, when you are climbing than being on top so I think that gave me a little bit of an advantage. I knew I was capable of winning. I had the world’s leading jump. I had a few great competitions before the world championships. With the consistency that I had and the mental place from the last competition in London I just felt something special and had a real good feeling that things were finally going to happen and fall my way.
“I did not watch anybody’s jumps in the final. I did not want to look at other people’s jumps and think any thoughts. High-jump is very mental thing and I only wanted to worry about myself. Sometimes you get mixed up in the competition and you see other jumpers jumping lower heights and making them by a lot. But when it comes down to it, it does not matter what anyone else does just what you do. So I did not want to let that affect me mentally. I did not see anyone’s jumps until the last bar when it was me and Dmitrik [ the Russian silver medallist]. I saw his jump – I might have seen a few jumps that were right before mine so I didn’t get to the line late and miss my jump. But it is so mental and I did not want it to affect my state of mind”.
Erik Kynard 2012 Olympic silver
“London was my first Olympic Games and I remember a lot. First and foremost, it was an honor to be there. It was surreal and a very humbling experience as you experienced something like that for the first time. I was 21 and still in college at the time. The expectations I had for myself far exceeded the expectations that the world had for me. It was the humbling moment for me competing on that stage, representing my country and winning a silver medal. It was great.
“I am usually comfortable in a competition until my back is against the wall and then you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Usually, I’m just out to have fun – get the rhythm and have fun and compete. I don’t put any extra pressure on myself. There is enough internal pressure with the expectation and the will to win. I just get on auto-pilot and do my thing.
“The people of London were very welcoming. It was the Olympic Games and the stage was so large. I remember leaving the village and going to the mall. It was madness but we enjoyed it -the athletes who had finished competing going over there and shopping and being part of the chaos – and seemingly creating some of the chaos. It was very exciting”.
Brigetta Barrett 2012 Olympic silver
“I had finished sixth in the 2011 World Championships, jumping higher in qualifying than in the final. I walked away bittersweet – very proud of how I’d done in the qualifying round but in the final, I felt I didn’t keep my composure to do as well as I had done in the qualifying. So, I walked away knowing that I was ready to compete against these women. The thing to look forward to, after the worlds, was the Olympics and I was grateful for the disappointment in my heart because that was going to give me what I needed to prepare for the Olympics
“My expectation going into London was to win. I don’t believe in realistic expectations or dreams – not that it wasn’t realistic but I knew that everything had to go right and then some for me to win – but I was prepared for that to happen. And going into London I just tried to keep the memory of the worlds fresh in my mind and the disappointment. Once I got there what helped me to relax and enjoy the moment was understanding that nothing that I do really got me there. God had orchestrated my life in such an aspect to put me here. I was destined to be here and destined to be a high jumper for this moment. And just accepting the way that my life had been orchestrated and at the moment was not there to stress me out but all I had to do was have fun and let other people watching enjoy the competition with me – that is the kind of energy I was going into the finals with.
“I knew it had been a long time since an American woman high jumper had got an Olympic medal – [Louise Ritter in 1988] – because I started jumping in high school and started thinking what the long-term goal was, I wanted to get to the Olympics and medal. But when I looked it up, I thought, ‘man, it doesn’t look as if Americans are good at female high jumping’ and I wanted to be the person who got that back. So when I got Olympics and started thinking about where it all started, I thought this is my opportunity”.